al Qahtani v. Obama

At a Glance

Current Status 

Al Qahtani’s habeas corpus petition is currently pending (but stayed) in the D.C. District Court.

Date Filed: 

October 5, 2005

Co-Counsel 

Larry S. Lustberg, Joseph A. Pace, Sandra Babcock, Ramzi Kassem, Gitanjali S. Gutierrez

Client 

Mohammed al Qahtani

Case Description 

Mohammed al Qahtani was sent to Guantánamo in 2002 and subjected to the Pentagon’s “First Special Interrogation Plan”—a regime of torture authorized by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Al Qahtani is the only Guantánamo detainee who the government has openly admitted was tortured.

Al Qahtani’s treatment was partially detailed in a military interrogation log leaked to and published by Time magazine on March 2, 2006. Military Intelligence officials sought to use training tactics on al Qahtani, and others, that were based on the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape, or SERE, training program designed to teach U.S. soldiers how to resist torture if they are captured by enemy forces.

The 84-page log describes interrogations during a six-week period, beginning on or around November 23, 2002 through January 11, 2003. The methods used against al Qahtani include:

  • severe sleep deprivation combined with 20-hour-per-day interrogations, all continuing for months at a time;
  • prolonged solitary confinement (including isolation for several months);
  • religious and sexual humiliation, including strip searching and forced nudity in the presence of female personnel and being forced to wear a bra and a thong on his head;
  • various other forms of humiliation (being forced to bark like a dog, wear a leash like a dog, dance with a mask on his face, pick up piles of trash with his hands cuffed while being called “a pig”);
  • denial of the right to practice his religion, including prohibiting him from praying for prolonged times and during Ramadan, threatening to desecrate the Koran in front of him, shaving his beard, and forcing him to pray to Osama Bin Laden;
  • forcible administration of IVs by medical personnel during interrogation;
  • denial of access to a toilet so that he would be forced to urinate on himself;
  • repeatedly placing him in tight restraints and in stress positions;
  • beatings;
  • threats and attacks by dogs;
  • exposure to low temperatures for prolonged periods of time, often while doused with water;
  • exposure to loud music for prolonged periods of time;
  • threats made against his family;
  • threats of extraordinary rendition to countries that torture more than the United States.

On one occasion, al Qahtani was rushed to a military base hospital when his heart rate dropped to half the normal rate during a period of extreme sleep deprivation, physical stress, and psychological trauma. The military flew in a radiologist from the U.S. Naval Station in Puerto Rico to evaluate him. After being permitted to sleep a full night, medical personnel cleared al Qahtani for further interrogation the next day. During his transportation from the hospital, al Qahtani was interrogated in the ambulance.

The military’s mistreatment of al Qahtani and the command authority sanctioning the use of these interrogation methods have been the subject of several military investigations, and former General Counsel of the Navy Alberto J. Mora warned that the use of these impermissible interrogation methods could make U.S. personnel vulnerable to war crimes prosecutions.

On February 11, 2008, six years after he was first brought to Guantánamo, the government charged al Qahtani, along with five others, with involvement in the September 11 attacks and sought the death penalty. In the 90-page charge sheet, the allegations relating to al Qahtani consisted of five paragraphs, which did not allege any actual contribution on his part to the attacks. Al Qahtani has adamantly and consistently denied ever taking up arms against the United States or ever being a member of the Taliban or Al Qaeda and insisted that all of the government’s claims against him originate from statements obtained through torture.

On May 9, 2008, the Convening Authority for Military Commissions issued final charges for the other five men, but dismissed all charges against al Qahtani. The charges were dismissed without prejudice, which leaves open the possibility that he could be re-charged in the future.

Case Timeline

March 9, 2015

Supreme Court denies cert in FOIA case

March 9, 2015

Supreme Court denies cert in FOIA case

September 2, 2014

Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirms District Court ruling on motions for summary judgment

September 2, 2014

Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirms District Court ruling on motions for summary judgment

June 25, 2014

Oral argument in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals

June 25, 2014

Oral argument in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals

April 8, 2014

CCR files appellate reply brief

April 8, 2014

CCR files appellate reply brief

March 21, 2014

Goverment files appellate brief in FOIA case

March 21, 2014

Goverment files appellate brief in FOIA case

December 20, 2013

CCR appeals denial of summary judgment in FOIA case

December 20, 2013

CCR appeals denial of summary judgment in FOIA case

September 12, 2013

District court denies CCR's motion for summary judgment and grants the government's motion for summary judgment

September 12, 2013

District court denies CCR's motion for summary judgment and grants the government's motion for summary judgment

October 3, 2012 - April 8, 2013
Briefing on CCR motion and government cross-motion for summary judgment in the FOIA case
October 3, 2012 - April 8, 2013
Briefing on CCR motion and government cross-motion for summary judgment in the FOIA case
January 9, 2012

CCR files lawsuit over government's noncompliance with FOIA requests for videotapes and photographs of al Qahtani's detention

January 9, 2012

CCR files lawsuit over government's noncompliance with FOIA requests for videotapes and photographs of al Qahtani's detention

September 15, 2010
CCR files an identical FOIA request with the FBI.
September 15, 2010
CCR files an identical FOIA request with the FBI.
March 4, 2010
CCR files a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request for recordings of al Qahtani during his interrogation
March 4, 2010
CCR files a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request for recordings of al Qahtani during his interrogation
The request is filed with the CIA, Department of Defense, and Department of Justice, and seeks videotapes and photographs of al Qahtani in the period immediately before he was subjected to the “First Special Interrogation Plan.”
October 5, 2009
Court order to disclose videotapes
October 5, 2009
Court order to disclose videotapes
Court orders government to disclose video and audio recordings of al Qahtani during the period immediately prior to the period described in the torture log
February 4, 2009

CCR files a motion to compel the government to turn over exculpatory evidence and to hold the government in contempt for its 'flagrant' violation of Judge Hogan's December 2008 order to do so

February 4, 2009

CCR files a motion to compel the government to turn over exculpatory evidence and to hold the government in contempt for its 'flagrant' violation of Judge Hogan's December 2008 order to do so

January 14, 2009

Government admits to torturing al Qahtani

January 14, 2009

Government admits to torturing al Qahtani

Susan Crawford, senior official in charge of the Office of Military Commissions, admits “We tortured Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer [his] case [for prosecution],” leading to the May 2008 withdrawal of charges

December 16, 2008

Judge orders government to comply with requests for exculpatory evidence

December 16, 2008

Judge orders government to comply with requests for exculpatory evidence

Judge Hogan, coordinating judge for nearly all Guantánamo habeas cases, issues a generally-applicable order mandating that the government must produce certain exculpatory evidence in its possession, upon request by a detainee's counsel.

November 18, 2008

Chief Prosecutor Lawrence Morris announces he will file new charges against al Qahtani

November 18, 2008

Chief Prosecutor Lawrence Morris announces he will file new charges against al Qahtani

When announcing the new charges Morris states that the new charges were based on “independent and reliable evidence”; no charges have been filed to date

October 9, 2008

Department of Defense issues a directive on intelligence interrogations

October 9, 2008

Department of Defense issues a directive on intelligence interrogations

Defense Department issues a directive on intelligence interrogations stating in part that the "[u]se of SERE techniques against a person in the custody or effective control of the DoD or detained in a DoD facility is prohibited," but preserving a possible loophole for SERE techniques authorized by the U.S. Army Field Manual on interrogations

February 11, 2008

Government announces military commission charges against al Qahtani

February 11, 2008

Government announces military commission charges against al Qahtani

He is charged with war crimes and murder and faces the death penalty if convicted

September 2007

Al Qahtani’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) statement was released and was his first public statement since his detention began

September 2007

Al Qahtani’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) statement was released and was his first public statement since his detention began

August 9, 2007

CCR files a petition for review under the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA)

August 9, 2007

CCR files a petition for review under the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA)

May 9, 2007

District court dismisses a Qahtani's habeas case

May 9, 2007

District court dismisses a Qahtani's habeas case

The case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction subsequent to the D.C. Circuit’s dismissal of Boumediene v. Bush

November 2006

Senior investigators with the Defense Department's Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) tell MSNBC that they were informed by military prosecutors that al Qahtani is "unprosecutable" because of what was done to him during interrogation

November 2006

Senior investigators with the Defense Department's Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF) tell MSNBC that they were informed by military prosecutors that al Qahtani is "unprosecutable" because of what was done to him during interrogation

October 2006

Al Qahtani becomes a plaintiff in a universal jurisdiction (UJ) case filed in Germany

October 2006

Al Qahtani becomes a plaintiff in a universal jurisdiction (UJ) case filed in Germany

The UJ case is filed against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other government officials, to hold them accountable for war crimes committed at Guantánamo and in Iraq

March 2, 2006

Time magazine publishes an interrogation log detailing al Qahtani’s torture and interrogation by the U.S. government

March 2, 2006

Time magazine publishes an interrogation log detailing al Qahtani’s torture and interrogation by the U.S. government

Rather than challenging the authenticity of the interrogation log, the Department of Defense uses al Qahtani’s interrogation as an example of the benefits of “aggressive interrogation methods” and claims to have extracted valuable information from him

December 6, 2005

District Court orders the government to produce documents showing the factual justification for al Qahtani’s detention

December 6, 2005

District Court orders the government to produce documents showing the factual justification for al Qahtani’s detention

The government seeks to delay production until December 27, 2005. After the enactment of the Detainee Treatment Act, the district court stays its order.

December 2005

A CCR attorney meets with al Qahtani for the first time

 

December 2005

A CCR attorney meets with al Qahtani for the first time

 

CCR attorney Gita Gutierrez begins the difficult process of establishing a trusting attorney-client relationship after al Qahtani's extensive abuse and torture at the hands of U.S. personnel

October 5, 2005

Habeas corpus petition filed

October 5, 2005

Habeas corpus petition filed

June 9, 2005
Schmidt Report
June 9, 2005
Schmidt Report

The Schmidt Report, an internal investigation of torture allegations, concludes that there was no torture by FBI personnel at Guantánamo and that Army Field Manual interrogation techniques were violated in only three instances 

July 14, 2004
TJ Harrington Ltr Redacted
July 14, 2004
TJ Harrington Ltr Redacted

Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, T.J. Harrington, raises concerns about suspected mistreatment of detainees, in a letter to the Army Criminal Division Investigation Command

July 7, 2004
Mora memo
July 7, 2004
Mora memo

Alberto J. Mora, outgoing general counsel of the United States Navy, submits a 22-page memo to Vice Admiral Albert Church, who led a Pentagon investigation into abuses at the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in an effort to get his superiors to halt torture at Guantánamo 

2003-2008
After the First Special Interrogation Plan ended, al Qahtani was held in solitary confinement for five years
2003-2008
After the First Special Interrogation Plan ended, al Qahtani was held in solitary confinement for five years
December 2, 2002
Rumsfeld action memo
December 2, 2002
Rumsfeld action memo

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approves interrogation techniques that include "removal of clothing," "inducing stress by use of detainee's fears," and "stress positions," such as standing for up to 4 hours--infamously stating, "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours? D.R." 

November 23, 2002 - January 11, 2003

Al Qahtani is subjected to an official interrogation regime known as the “First Special Interrogation Plan”

November 23, 2002 - January 11, 2003

Al Qahtani is subjected to an official interrogation regime known as the “First Special Interrogation Plan”

Mid-2002

Al Qahtani is held in isolation for months

Mid-2002

Al Qahtani is held in isolation for months

February 13, 2002

Al Qahtani transferred to Guantánamo

February 13, 2002

Al Qahtani transferred to Guantánamo

He is interrogated by JTF-170, CITF, and FBI personnel at Camp X-Ray

December 26, 2001
Al Qahtani turned over to U.S. forces
December 26, 2001
Al Qahtani turned over to U.S. forces
December 15, 2001

Al Qahtani detained by Pakistani officials near Afghanistan border

December 15, 2001

Al Qahtani detained by Pakistani officials near Afghanistan border